Agendas, reports and minutes

Highland Council

Date: Thursday, 13 December 2018

Minutes: Read the Minutes (Items 1-14)

Minutes of Meeting of the Highland Council held in the Council Chamber, Council Headquarters, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness on Thursday, 13 December 2018 at 10.35am.

1. Calling of the Roll and Apologies for Absence
A’ Gairm a’ Chlàir agus Leisgeulan

Mr G Adam, Mr R Balfour, Mrs J Barclay, Mr A Baxter, Mr B Boyd, Mr R Bremner, Mr I Brown, Mr J Bruce, Mrs C Caddick, Miss J Campbell, Mrs I Campbell, Mrs G Campbell-Sinclair, Mr A Christie, Dr I Cockburn, Mrs M Cockburn, Ms K Currie, Mrs M Davidson, Mr J Finlayson, Mr M Finlayson, Mr C Fraser, Mr L Fraser, Mr R Gale, Mr J Gordon, Mr K Gowans, Mr A Graham, Mr J Gray, Ms P Hadley, Mr T Heggie, Mr A Henderson, Mr A Jarvie, Ms E Knox, Mr R Laird, Mr B Lobban, Mr D Louden, Mrs L MacDonald, Mr R MacDonald, Mr A MacInnes, Mrs D Mackay, Mr D Mackay, Mr W MacKay (V/C), Mr G MacKenzie, Mrs I MacKenzie, Mr S Mackie, Mr A Mackinnon, Mrs A MacLean, Mr C MacLeod, Mr D MacLeod, Mr D Macpherson, Mr R MacWilliam, Mrs B McAllister, Mr J McGillivray (V/C), Mr N McLean, Mr H Morrison, Ms L Munro, Mrs P Munro, Mrs M Paterson, Mr I Ramon, Mr M Reiss, Mr A Rhind (am only), Mr D Rixson, Mrs F Robertson, Mrs T Robertson, Mr K Rosie, Mr G Ross, Mr P Saggers, Mr A Sinclair, Ms N Sinclair, Mr C Smith, Ms M Smith, Mr B Thompson, and Ms C Wilson (am only). 
Also in Attendance:
Miss E Leitch, Youth Convener    

In Attendance:
Chief Executive
Depute Chief Executive/Director of Corporate Resources 
Director of Development & Infrastructure
Interim Director of Care & Learning
Director of Community Services

Mr B Lobban in the Chair

1. Calling the Roll and Apologies for Absence
A’ Gairm a’ Chlàir agus Leisgeulan

Apologies for absence were intimated on behalf of Mr B Allan, Mrs H Carmichael and Mr G Cruickshank. 

2. Declarations of Interest
Foillseachaidhean Com-pàirt

The Council NOTED the following declarations of interest:-

Item 5 – Mr A Christie (Financial)
Item 9 – Mr A Christie (Financial)
Item 16 – Mr G Adam, Mr R Bremner, Mrs I Campbell, Mrs C Caddick, Mr A Henderson, Mr R MacDonald, Mrs I Mackenzie, Mr C MacLeod, Mr H Morrison (all Financial) and Mr J Gordon (Financial and Non-Financial)
Item 17 – Mr L Fraser and Mr D Rixson (Non-Financial)
Item 18 – Mr A Christie (Financial)

Prior to the commencement of formal business the Convener drew attention to the talent, skills and dedication of all Highland Council staff.  He highlighted the excellent work being undertaken, which was not only achieving significant financial savings but also leading the way nationally and reinforcing the Council’s reputation across Scotland as a forward thinking and proactive local authority.  The Convener listed a number of staff achievements/awards both at a national and UK level and detailed a number of collaborative initiatives being undertaken with partner organisations to deliver higher quality services for the Highlands.  The Convener expressed appreciation and congratulated all staff for contributing to the success of the Council and this was supported by the Council.

In conclusion, on behalf of the Council, the Convener welcomed Ms Donna Manson, Chief Executive to her first meeting of the Council in her new role.

3. Membership of the Council 
Ballrachd na Comhairle

Members were advised that, following the By-Election held on Thursday, 6 December 2018, Mr A MacInnes, Proterra, Achintraid, Kishorn, Nr Strathcarron, Wester Ross, IV54 8XB had been elected as a Member of Ward 5 (Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh).

In this regard, Mr MacInnes was welcomed to the Council and responded accordingly.
4. Presentation on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) – Director of Public Health 
Taisbeanadh mu Eòlasan Leanabachd Mì-fhàbharach – Stiùiriche Slàinte Phoblach

A presentation was undertaken by Dr Van Woerden, Director of Public Health on the Annual Report for 2018. Issues covered included the following:-

  • the estimated prevalence of adverse childhood events in NHS Highland;
  • resilience came from an ability to biologically and psychologically adapt to stress;
  • toxic stress and its impact on children’s ability to learn;
  • the long term health impacts of ACEs;
  • resilience could be improved later in life with support;
  • a ‘cluster’ effect was sometimes observed where children were affected by a variety of ACEs;
  • the role of the public and third sectors to develop ‘trauma-informed’ services, for example language use and making people feel safe, and the need for cultural changes;
  • the importance of preventative work through investment in early years;
  • the risks and benefits around routinely enquiring about childhood adversity; and
  • the importance of creating resilient and compassionate communities.

During discussion, Members raised the following issues:-

  • the report was welcomed by Members;
  • attention was drawn to the value of changing language, for example asking ‘what happened to you?’ instead of ‘what’s wrong with you?’, and referring to ‘survivors’ rather than ‘victims’;
  • a useful seminar had been held the previous evening for Members on the subject, and reference was made to the important work that was already ongoing to tackle ACEs;
  • there were more ACEs than the ten listed and all should be acknowledged in conversations;
  • individual responsibility within communities for children who might be suffering or at risk was emphasised;
  • it was clarified that the five year figures quoted in the report were likely to be the most recent five years for which data was available. Profiles of trends had been produced for the Community Planning Partnerships and could be provided to Members on request;
  • the next Public Health Annual Report was likely to cover wider mortality and morbidity;
  • in some communities public sector services had replaced family networks due to changing demographics;
  • reference was made to the third sector at times being more flexible and responsive than the public sector;
  • ACEs impacted on all areas of society and awareness raising was vital, as was achieving a correct balance between being open and inviting conversation without triggering traumatic memories;
  • the length of the report might be off-putting to some and a single A4 document with key messages would be helpful for raising awareness;
  • investment in tackling ACEs in the early years was also financially efficient as prevention of trauma could significantly reduce an individual’s health problems in later life, as could breaking the cycle of poverty; and
  • support was sought from Members for the twitter account @AceHighland and to continue to raise awareness and to promote the training of front line staff.

The Council NOTED the presentation.

5. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Aware Council 
Eòlasan Leanabachd Mì-fhàbharach

Declaration of Interest – Mr A Christie declared a financial interest in this item as a Board Member of NHS Highland but, having applied the test outlined in Paragraphs 5.2 and 5.3 of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct, concluded that his interest did not preclude him from taking part in the discussion.

There had been circulated Report No HC/48/18 dated 5 December 2018 by the Interim Director of Care and Learning.

The Council NOTED the report and the work currently undertaken by Highland Council Care and Learning Service and how this contributed to becoming an ACE-Aware Council.

6. Confirmation of Minutes     
Daingneachadh a’ Gheàrr-chunntais

There had been submitted for confirmation as a correct record the Minutes of the Special Meeting of the Council held on 23 October and of the Meeting held on 25 October 2018 as contained in the Volume which had been circulated separately - which were APPROVED.

7. Minutes of Meetings of Committees
Geàrr-chunntasan Choinneamhan Chomataidhean

There had been submitted for confirmation as correct records, for information as regards delegated business and for approval as appropriate, the Minutes of Meetings of Committees contained in Volume circulated separately as undernoted:-

Ross & Cromarty Committee, 1 November 2018
* Lochaber Area Committee, 7 November 2018
Environment, Development & Infrastructure Committee, 8 November 2018
Badenoch & Strathspey Area Committee, 14 November 2018
Sutherland County Committee, 15 November 2018
Caithness Committee, 20 November 2018
Corporate Resources Committee, 21 November 2018
City of Inverness Area Committee, 22 November 2018
Nairnshire Committee, 28 November 2018
Audit & Scrutiny Committee, 29 November 2018
Isle of Skye and Raasay Committee, 3 December 2018
Care, Learning & Housing Committee, 6 December 2018

The Minutes, having been moved and seconded were, except as undernoted, APPROVED – matters arising having been dealt with as follows:-

*Starred Item: Item 7: PP 335-338: Car Parking in Lochaber 

During discussion, and with specific reference to the recommendation in relation to the Car Parking in Lochaber, the Chair of the Committee explained that the reason for the decision (the recommendation to Council) at the Lochaber Committee meeting was that they had been advised that the target set was a notional budget, the decision to implement two hours free car parking was within the remit of the Area Committee, and that this was a matter for which Members had discretion.  He explained that the reason he was proceeding this matter (although due to the lapse in time/implementation he was now proposing that this be six weeks free car parking for two hours effective from 14 December 2018 as opposed six weeks running up to Christmas Eve) was to ensure that budget decisions were implemented fairly and equally across the whole of the Highlands.  He acknowledged the budget impact of this but stated that Lochaber had generated £156,000 in car parking revenue compared to the previous year and the recommendation was also recognition of this on behalf of the local community.  

Other Members indicated their support of this recommendation on the principle of fairness in terms of implementation of the car parking charging policy across the whole of the Highlands.  It was further highlighted that this was also a matter of localism and, although supportive of car parking charges, it was advocated that a proportion of the revenue generated should be retained locally.  

However, the Chairman of Environment, Development and Infrastructure advised that the recommendation was not acceptable in view of the current financial pressures and the impact on the Community Services budget as result of the loss of income this would generate. 

On a point of clarity, the Area Chair proposed the recommendation be financed in accordance with the decision made at the meeting of the Highland Council held on 28 June 2018 whereby it was agreed that, for 2018/19 only, any shortfall in area car parking income would be underwritten from the overall Community Services budget.  However, it was indicated that free car parking was not a shortfall in income. 

Thereafter, Mr A Baxter, seconded by Mr N MacLean, MOVED a MOTION that six weeks free car parking for two hours be introduced in Fort William’s short stay car parks with effect from 14 December 2018.

As an AMENDMENT, Mr A Henderson, seconded by Mr M Reiss, moved that the Council agree to (as per the spirit of the Council Minute of 28 June 2018) allow free Christmas car parking in the listed car park from now until Christmas to be funded by local ward discretionary funds.

On a vote being taken, the MOTION received 45 votes and the AMENDMENT received 14 votes, with 7 abstentions, and the MOTION was therefore CARRIED, the votes having been cast as follows:- 

For the Motion:
Mr G Adam, Mr R Balfour, Mr A Baxter, Mr B Boyd, Mr R Bremner, Mr I Brown, Mr J Bruce, Mrs G Campbell-Sinclair, Dr I Cockburn, Mrs M Cockburn, Ms K Currie, Mr C Fraser, Mr L Fraser, Mr J Gordon, Mr K Gowans, Ms P Hadley, Mr A Jarvie, Ms E Knox, Mr R Laird, Mr D Louden, Mrs L MacDonald, Mr A MacInnes, Mr G MacKenzie, Mrs I MacKenzie, Mr N MacLean, Mr C MacLeod, Mr D MacLeod, Mr J McGillivray, Mr D Mackay, Mr S Mackie, Mr R MacWilliam, Ms P Munro, Mrs M Paterson, Mr I Ramon, Mr A Rhind, Mr D Rixson, Mrs F Robertson, Mr K Rosie,  Mr P Saggers, Mr A Sinclair, Ms N Sinclair, Mr C Smith, Ms M Smith, Mr B Thompson and Mrs C Wilson.

For the Amendment:
Mrs C Caddick, Mr A Christie, Mrs M Davidson, Mr J Finlayson, Mr M Finlayson, Mr A Graham, Mr J Gray, Mr T Heggie, Mr A Henderson, Mr B Lobban, Mr W Mackay Mr A Mackinnon, Mr H Morrison and Mr M Reiss.

Mrs J Barclay, Mrs I Campbell, Mr R Gale, Mr R MacDonald, Mrs A MacLean, Ms L Munro and Mrs T Robertson.


It was AGREED that six weeks free car parking for 2 hours be introduced in Fort William’s short stay car parks with effect from 14 December 2018.

8. Highland and Western Isles Valuation Joint Board    
Co-Bhòrd Luachaidh na Gàidhealtachd is nan Eilean Siar

There had been circulated for information Minutes of Meeting of the Valuation Joint Board held on 13 September 2018 (approved by the Board on 20 November 2018) which were NOTED.

9. Health and Social Care Working Group                                                    
Buidheann-obrach Slàinte agus Cùraim Shòisealta

Declaration of Interest – Mr A Christie declared a financial interest in this item as a Board Member of NHS Highland but, having applied the test outlined in Paragraphs 5.2 and 5.3 of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct, concluded that his interest did not preclude him from taking part in the discussion.

There had been circulated Minutes of Meeting of the Health and Social Care Working Group held on 28 November 2018 which were APPROVED subject to the seventh paragraph on Page 29 being deleted and replaced with the following:-

“There was NHS funding available for representatives of other communities to visit Boleskine Community Care or Black Isle Carers.”                                             

10. Membership of Committees, etc
Ballarachd Chomataidhean, msaa

The Council was advised that, following the By-Election for Ward 5, the political make-up of the Council was now as follows:-

Independent – 27/SNP – 20/Scottish Conservatives – 11/Liberal Democrat – 9/Labour – 3/Green Party – 1/Sutherland Independent – 1/Non-Aligned – 2

The formula in respect of the number of places on Strategic Committees was now 10/7/4/3/1. 

The Council was advised that, following the resignation of Mr A Baxter as the Chair of Care, Learning and Housing Committee, it was proposed that Mr J Finlayson be appointed as Chair of the committee and this was duly AGREED.

The Council also:-

(i)   APPROVED the revised Committee Membership tables subject to the following additions:-
      a.    Care, Learning and Housing Committee – Mr R Bremner to replace Ms P Munro and Mrs M Paterson to replace Mr A Baxter; 
      b.    Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee – Mr K Rosie to replace Ms M Smith and Mrs A MacLean to replace Mr R Gale; 
      c.    Corporate Resources Committee – Mr A MacInnes to replace Mr K Rosie; and
(ii)  AGREED the following:-
      a.    South Planning Applications Committee (Sub – Ward 12) – Mrs H Carmichael to replace Ms E Knox;
      b.    Highland Historic Buildings Trust - Mr A Henderson to replace Mrs M Paterson; and
      c.    NHS Highland Health and Social Care Committee – Mrs I Campbell.

11. COSLA Executive Board Membership
Ballrachd Bòrd-gnìomha COSLA

The Council AGREED the following revisions to the COSLA Executive Board membership:-

Health and Social Care Board – Mrs I Campbell to replace Ms K Stephen.

Children & Young People Board – Mr J Finlayson to replace Mr A Baxter.

12. Question Time
Am Ceiste                  

The following Questions had been received by the Head of Corporate Governance in terms of Standing Order 11–. 

(i)    Mr J McGillivray

To the Leader of the Council 

‘As reported to the Resources Committee the total outstanding debt at 31 March 2014 was £743,000,000 and the loan charges incurred over the year were £33,400,000. At 31 March 2018, as reported to the Corporate Resources Committee, the total outstanding debt was £1,080,000,000 (an increase of 45.35%) and the loan charges incurred over the year amounted to £36,000,000 (an increase of 9.09%).  It is clear that total debt has increased significantly over the last five years, and the corresponding low level of loan charges suggest capital repayments have been kept to a minimum.

Would the Leader of the Administration agree that this trend is deeply concerning on the grounds that: 

(i)    these significant loan charges result in a top slicing of income by significant amounts that could otherwise be released for the benefit of the Highlands as a whole;
(ii)   the accumulation of significant levels of debt will fall to future generations to repay; and 
(iii)  and what proposals are being considered to reduce the overall debt burden which Highland Council currently bears?’

The response had been circulated.

There was no supplementary question.   

(ii)   Mr A Jarvie

To the Leader of the Council

‘How exactly do you plan for the public views gathered through this consultation period to be incorporated into setting the budget next year?’

The response had been circulated.

In terms of a supplementary question, Mr Jarvie queried how public views would be ranked and incorporated into the budget and at what point would public demand override the need for savings from a specific budget item.

In response, the Leader responded that meetings would resume in January 2019 and Members would be able to suggest rankings of public views.  Appendix 2 of Item 15 (Your Voice: Budget Engagement and Financial Update) gave a clear indication of what the public had suggested.

(iii)  Mr A Jarvie

To the Leader of the Council

‘The Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan marks out allocations IN43 and 50 for 401 houses. With planning permission routinely granting 25% over allocation, this will most likely be at least 500 houses. 

The Council's own methodology would predict 120 extra primary children for 400 houses, yet over 10 years the roll forecast for the affected schools shows a net increase of only 19 children. We risk having over 100 children who we have not been accounted for in schools which are already past 100% capacity. 

Why do the roll forecasts continually fall short of reality and how does the IMFLDP allocations not seem to match up with roll forecasts?’

The response had been circulated.

In terms of a supplementary question, Mr Jarvie queried, with the knowledge of the additional housing, why the roll projections for Milton of Leys Primary had decreased.

In response, the Leader confirmed that details of the calculation for Milton of Leys Primary would be sought from officers and shared with Mr Jarvie.

(iv)   Mr K Gowans

To the Leader of the Council

‘Over a period of several months several parents and parent councils have raised concerns regarding what they perceive as anomalies in their Flexible Childcare invoices and statements. Many of these reports cite instances where invoices/statements are issued many months in arrears and are very difficult to understand. Parents have also claimed that Highland Council customer service representatives do not appear to be familiar with the systems.

This has resulted in lack of confidence in the system amongst parents who are paying for the services and the number of overpaid by significant amounts but met with resistance when he tried to claim the overpayments back from Highland Council.

Do you feel that the Flexible Childcare accounting and reporting systems used by Highland Council are in need of an urgent review?’

The response had been circulated.

In terms of a supplementary question, Mr Gowans queried when a report would be brought to Council to advise Members of the findings of the review and the recommendations, given that this was an ongoing item and a matter of some urgency.

In response, the Leader confirmed that there was an issue but it was being dealt with and it was for the Chairman of Care, Learning and Housing to decide if an item should be brought to Committee.

(v)    Mr K Gowans

To the Leader of the Council

‘During the last Council, it was originally estimated that £43 million would be required to alleviate the unplanned roll pressures faced by the Inverness schools. Roll pressures that are largely due in part to inadequate analysis of demographics, unsustainable development, lack of infrastructure and inadequate levels of developer contributions, especially for education.

Approximately two years ago officers revealed to the Care, Learning and Housing Committee the original estimate of £43 million was unrealistic and was then estimated to be £200 million. Clearly, such an unexpected budget pressure impacts on all areas of Highland Council.

Inexplicably, no reports have been presented to either Full Council or Care Learning and Housing Committee, or the City of Inverness Area Committee on this substantive issue for well over a year.  Yet Inverness Members have been invited to attend private Members’ briefings to advise them of the measures proposed to mitigate these roll pressures.

Given the time lapse, inflation, interest rate increases etc., and the absence of reporting to Members, can you advise all Members of this Council if this figure of £200 million has been reviewed since it was last reported to the Council and if so, what is the new figure?’

The response had been circulated.

In terms of a supplementary question, Mr Gowans queried, given that it was a pan-Highland issue and of immense importance, why there had not been reports or updates for Members to either the Full Council or the Care, Learning and Housing Committee for almost two years and asked when it was anticipated that a report would be brought to the Full Council to update Members.

In response, the Leader advised Mr Gowans that he should request a report from the Chair of Care, Learning and Housing but make clear whether this was in relation to Inverness or pan-Highland.

(vi)   Mr D Louden

To the Chair of Corporate Resources Committee

‘Now that there has been an announcement of £1bn for the Scottish Futures Trust, could the Chair of Corporate Resources, guarantee that the Council will progress the preparation of “shovel ready” projects timeously to enable us to bid into the new fund?’

The response had been circulated.

In terms of a supplementary question, as the site selection for the Tain 3-18 campus would be reported to the next meeting of the Care, Learning and Housing Committee, Mr Louden queried if site investigations would proceed without delay once approved.

In response, the Chair of Corporate Resources Committee confirmed that work was ongoing preparing all sites in relation to the school.  A stakeholder meeting was to take place the following week to which he would endeavour to report to.

(vii)  Mr D Louden

To the Chair of Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee

‘What steps has the Council taken to ensure that fish landed at our harbours will have the correct paperwork for ease of access to the continent after Brexit?’

The response had been circulated.

In terms of a supplementary question, Mr Louden queried what the potential loss of revenue to harbour and landing dues and fuel sales was from deep sea and inshore boats from a hard Brexit. 

In response, the Chair of Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee confirmed that information would be sought from the Council’s Harbour Manager and provided accordingly.

(viii) Mr D MacLeod

To the Leader of the Council

‘What was the outcome of her talks held with the Transport Minister, Mr Michael Matheson, on 29 November 2018 to discuss a permanent solution to the Stromeferry Bypass issue?

And to ask what specific measures both the Scottish Government and the Highland Council have agreed to pursue in respect of finding a permanent solution following these talks?’

The response had been circulated.

In terms of a supplementary question, Mr MacLeod queried if the Leader was confident funding would be forthcoming from the Scottish Futures Trust and if the Council was preparing a bid.  He also queried if the Minister had addressed the question of the overdue Strategic Transport Review of the Trunk Roads Network, a responsibility placed on them by the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984.

In response, the Leader confirmed that there was potential for funding from the Scottish Future Trust and in this regard a meeting was to take place with the Chairs of Environment, Development and Infrastructure and Corporate Resources to which Local Members would also be invited to.  The Strategic Transport Review was not due until 2020 but the Minister was content that Stromeferry would form part of it if the Council wanted to put it forward.

(ix)   Ms M Smith

To the Chair of Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee

‘There are proposals in Ross and Cromarty to charge for some car parking in different areas. This is on the premise that the relevant community will receive a large percentage of the income generated from the car park charges.  This was agreed in a previous committee and now needs to be confirmed as to the exact percentage split.  Please provide me with the figure that the Administration is proposing?’

The response had been circulated.

In terms of a supplementary question, Ms Smith queried if the percentage split was from any additional income generated from new car park charges or if it was in relation to any income above the target set.

In response, the Chair of Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee confirmed that, in the future, it was the intention to set a target deliberately low so there was a fair chance a good percentage would be left in the community.

(x)    Ms M Smith

To the Chair of Corporate Resources Committee

‘Could I have a list of the vacancies the Council currently holds with an indication of the length of time they have been vacant?’

The response had been circulated.

In terms of a supplementary question, Ms Smith queried, out of the 84 posts which Services had indicated were required, how many the Executive Leadership Team had approved.

In response, the Chair of Corporate Resources Committee confirmed that details would be provided to Ms Smith but that the Services being delivered were not affected by the holding of these posts.

(xi)   Mr R MacWilliam

To the Leader of the Council

‘Has the Leader had a reply to her letter to Scottish Ministers on the completion date of the £3billion A9 dualling project?’

The response had been circulated.

In terms of a supplementary question, Mr MacWilliam queried if the Leader accepted that the Scottish Government was committed to dualling the A9 by 2025.

In response, the Leader confirmed that a letter had been received from the Scottish Minister confirming this and would be shared with Mr MacWillliam. However, this was contrary to the views of the communities, users and construction engineers of the road.

(xii)  Mr R MacWilliam

To the Leader of the Council

‘Does the Leader anticipate maximising the Highland Council allocation of Scottish Government affordable housing programme funds for 2018/19?’

The response had been circulated.

In terms of a supplementary question, Mr MacWilliam queried what measures the Leader had to ensure the support was in place so officers could fully deliver the Strategic Housing Investment Plan.

In response, the Leader confirmed that she was confident that there would be no under-performing on housing development.  The Team were renowned for accessing external additional monies but should they require additional human resources their request would be made known to the Chief Executive.

(xiii) Ms P Munro

To the Leader of the Council

‘It is noted that the current waiting list for school age children to be referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) is now in the region of two years.  It is crucial that our vulnerable young people are able to get a diagnosis at the earliest opportunity. Therefore, can I please have assurances that the Leader will immediately address the unacceptable delays for referrals to this and other mental health services within our school system?’

The response had been circulated.

In terms of a supplementary question, Ms Munro queried why there were instances where schools had had no contact with Primary Mental Health Workers and if she could meet with the Leader to discuss specific cases.

In response, the Leader confirmed that a meeting would be arranged but, in such instances, Head Teachers should contact the Chief Executive so that these gaps in provision could be identified and addressed.

13. Notices of Motion  
Brathan Gluasaid

The following Notices of Motion have been received in accordance with Standing Order 12:-

(i)    ‘Regional Workforce Recruitment Strategy: Highland Council recognises that the Highland economy and public services are reliant on inward migration for recruitment; proposes the formation of a joint working group with HIE, NHS Highland and representatives of Highland industry to develop a regional workforce recruitment strategy to avert a crisis in recruitment in the event of ending free movement for EU nationals as a result of Brexit.’

Signed: Mr R MacWilliam    Mrs M Cockburn 

During discussion, Members raised the following issues:-

  • recruitment in the Highlands was an on-going problem across most sectors of the economy and was likely to deteriorate further, depending on the outcome of Brexit, and Highland Council needed to take a firm position;
  • at the Council’s Brexit seminar, Members had heard experts’ concerns, particularly about the agriculture sector and small businesses and their ability to attract the necessary number of workers;
  • although Highland was a good place to live, it lacked employment opportunities and public agencies needed to do a better job of promoting the area;
  • a range of skills was required.  Accordingly, the Brexit Working Group needed to convene early in 2019 to pull together all the key agencies with a view to formulating a plan to attract the necessary workforce;
  • a message that the “Highlands was open for business” needed to be communicated to all stakeholders.  Highland had a low population with a huge land mass and a collective approach was required. A small investment at this time could have significant benefits;
  • the matter had been raised at a recent meeting of the Convention of the Highlands and Islands.  A shared service approach would work well i.e. a recruitment division covering all Highland public agencies which could also highlight the benefits of living in Highland in a concerted way.  It could also address some of the other collective issues about relocating to Highland such as housing in remote areas and providing a suitable family environment; and 
  • the Scottish Government had a responsibility to stem the flow of those leaving Scotland.


The Council AGREED the terms of the Notice of Motion as detailed.

(ii)   ‘ACE Aware Child Bereavement Services: That Highland Council recognises that childhood bereavement is an adverse childhood experience (ACE); notes with alarm that 67% of school exclusions are attributable to young people who have lost a parent or sibling and that research suggests multiple poor outcomes in later life for bereaved children; believes that Highland Council as an ‘ACE-aware’ Council has a duty to engage with all support services to improve outcomes for all children, and will prioritise bereavement services for children as part of a wider review of service improvements for those who have suffered bereavement.’

Signed: Mr R MacWilliam    Ms K Currie

During discussion, Members raised the following issues:-

  • a previous question regarding support services in place within the Council to address moments of chaos arising from bereavement had helped to inform the Council’s Mental Health Plan;
  • the statistics in the ACE’s study about those who had suffered bereavement were alarming and much needed to be done to improve outcomes.  Children affected by bereavement should be prioritised and the necessary measures put in place;
  • 67% of school exclusions were of children who had suffered parental or sibling bereavement.  Accordingly, it was important to examine what was currently being provided in terms of support and how it could be improved;
  • bereavement affected everyone at some point and it was a common misconception that it was a private matter.  Instead it was important to have a support structure in place to provide professional guidance;   
  • as Corporate Parents it was important for Members to have insight, empathy and a good form of perspective to ensure these children had an equality of relationships;
  • while concurring with the sentiments expressed it was contended that the individual be prioritised rather than concentrating primarily on a service i.e. providing the right services to the right individual regardless of whether they were an adult or child, depending on their needs; and
  • at a recent Mental Health Summit, Crocus, who provided bereavement support to children and young people in the Highland, had highlighted the disadvantages many young people who had suffered bereavement faced later in life and, when considering budgets, it was important to bear in mind the importance of their work.


The Council AGREED the terms of the Notice of Motion as detailed – subject to a change to the wording in the penultimate sentence, to replace the word ‘prioritise’ with ‘promote’. 

(iii)  ‘Highland Council supports proposals currently being developed by NHS Highland and local stakeholders to ensure refurbishment and redesign of Caithness General Hospital and the creation of health care hubs in Wick and Thurso, recognising that these measures retain existing local services whilst offering a sustainable model to further develop and enhance local provision. Caithness Members will continue to work with NHS Highland and stakeholders to provide more local clinics, reduce unnecessary travel and address ongoing concerns regarding maternity services.’

Signed:  Mr K Rosie  Mr R Bremner  Ms N Sinclair  Mr M Reiss

During discussion, Members raised the following issues:-

  • opportunities outweighed challenges in Caithness and new business investment in the west of Caithness and North Sutherland had taken place in the recent months.  However, this was in the face of the rundown of the nuclear industry and the difficulties in regard to health and social care in the Spring of 2017;
  • a health redesign process had been ongoing for some time and had been a main issue during elections.  Calls were made for the Scottish Government to invest in the redesign proposals; 
  • there was enthusiasm within communities and in the previous 18 months there had been the emergence of development trusts and community organisations setting about establishing amenities that were financially viable, sustainable and of real benefit to all in Caithness;
  • provision needed to be focused on people’s general health and wellbeing. In cooperation with the Caithness Community Partnership (CCP), there was an opportunity to provide meaningful localism and to fulfil a collaborative and solution focused partnership.  There was huge potential within the CCP, a forum which had business expertise, multi-agency, third sector and public participation and the ability to empower communities.  Accordingly, agreement was sought for the redesign proposals and for Caithness Councillors to fund the CCP with future ward discretionary funding;
  • in Spring 2017 there had been various rumours regarding the future of Adult Health and Social Care in Caithness including the closure of the Town and County and Dunbar Hospitals or reducing their status.  These rumours had resulted in public protests and consequently NHS Highland had given a commitment to review provision. Following detailed consultation, a submission was now being made to the Scottish Government for support for an investment programme of £30m for health services in Caithness, a much needed economic boost;
  • services needed to be redesigned as a result of changes in medical practices since the hospitals had been built.  In addition, Caithness General Hospital was to be refurbished;
  • the hubs in Wick and Thurso had been fully discussed during the consultation to determine what proposals would best suit.  As a result, it had been decided that services in the east and west of Caithness would be retained locally and, with a number of changes, services improved; 
  • NHS Highland was looking at how to tackle the various issues regarding the delivery of health services in rural areas.  This included recruitment and upskilling and discussions were taking place with UHI and the Northern Highland College.  The aim was to reduce the need to travel whilst providing accessibility to health services;
  • whilst challenges remained, considerable progress had been made as a result of the hard work of many and appreciation was expressed to all those involved;
  • there was still work to be done.  There were still too many patients travelling to Raigmore Hospital for 10 minute appointments and therefore it was important to repatriate as many clinics as possible.  Video consultations had helped but it was only one part of the solution and not suitable for all;
  • the new model of maternity services still carried risks;
  • predictions were that the population would decrease by 14% in the next 20 years and action needed to be taken to reverse this.  Caithness had excellent schools, connectivity, a beautiful natural environment and, importantly, its superb hospitals and the redesign underway would enhance their reputation; and
  • prevention and addressing the root causes of poverty were essential if the health and life chances of those living in Caithness were to be improved.  Excellent work had taken place in areas of multiple deprivation but a holistic overview was needed and it was suggested that a multi-agency Poverty Summit be held.


The Council AGREED the terms of the Notice of Motion as detailed.

(iv) ‘Highland Council will seek to identify and address local and regional transport needs to enable input on the national transport strategy.’

Signed:  Mr K Rosie  Mr R Bremner

During discussion, Members raised the following issues:-

  • the current National Transport Strategy set out three Key Strategic Outcomes as the guiding principles at national, regional and local level when developing strategy and prioritising resources, namely (a) improved journey times and connections (to tackle congestion and lack of integration and connections in transport); (b) reduced emissions (to tackle climate change, air quality, health improvement); and (c) improved quality, accessibility and affordability (to give choice of public transport, better quality services and value for money or alternative to car);
  • comparison was made to the Faroe Islands which, in the 1960s, had a similar population level to Caithness.  In 2017 the Faroe Islands population exceeded 50,000 whilst Caithness had dropped below 30,000.  This was because the Faroese had provided transport connectivity to 13 of their 18 Islands in the form of subterranean tunnels.  There was now also a subterranean roundabout, their own International airline and 4G connectivity across each of the Islands, extending 200 miles out to sea, and they were working towards providing 5G connectivity on the same basis.  Caithness needed to be just as aspirational;
  • Caithness had a range of transport providers and resources such as NHS Highland, Highland Council, the third sector and commercial organisations and, following on from informal discussions with transport providers, there was an opportunity to work collaboratively to identify and address local issues;
  • improvements to the train journey time from Wick to Inverness were called for, together with the devolution of the network rail service and a reduction in the journey target time of 3 hours.  With the increasing volume of car and heavy haulage traffic on the road network an improved train service would help to reduce carbon emissions; 
  • reference was made to the Lochaber Transport pilot and it was hoped similar could be realised in Caithness.  By adopting the NHS Highland consultation model for the recent health and social care redesign process it was hoped, when applying it to transport, that a truly integrated and sustainable transport system could be achieved both at a regional and local level; 
  • connecting hubs, in this case Wick, Thurso and Inverness and beyond, would help build the economy;
  • being clear of the factors impinging of the ability to deliver good structure and connectivity whilst having minimal impact on the environment was important.  This was an aim of HITRANS together with maximising the use of integrated transport schemes;
  • SUSTRANS had provided many new community link routes in Inverness and the surrounding area but 50% funding was required to source that; 
  • many in Highland needed a car to move around as they felt held to ransom by bus operators or trains not running on time.  If people were to be encouraged to stay/live in rural areas then a suitable integrated transport system had to be provided; and
  • Transport Scotland’s focus on minimising journey times also needed to take into account resilience e.g. road closures as a result of accidents, landslides etc.  There was a significant economic impact of road closures in Highland, as opposed to other areas in Scotland, given the potential for huge geographical diversions, resulting local economies grinding to a halt. 


The Council AGREED the terms of the Notice of Motion as detailed.

14. Annual Review of The Council Programme      
Prògram na Comhairle  

There had been circulated Report No. HC/49/18 dated 1 December 2018 by the Chief Executive.

Prior to debate, the Chief Executive highlighted the need for Members, staff and communities to work collectively.  From a series of visits she had made throughout Highland it had been evident there was now a willingness to change how services were delivered and to build capacity.  The Highlands had a rich heritage and an incredible environment and it was essential to sustain this whilst also having ambition as to what could be achieved.

The Leader of the Council emphasised the opportunity the review of the Council Programme presented, and the need to make bold statements and be ambitious about what Members wanted to achieve for Highland.  She thanked Members for their input to date and explained that there would be a further opportunity at the proposed seminar in January, at which the performance measures that would accompany the Programme would be discussed.  That would inform the draft Corporate Plan, which would also come before Members.  She went on to refer to the feedback from the budget engagement process that had taken place over the past six weeks, and commended the ambition of Council staff and communities.  The Programme showed ambition on many fronts and she highlighted, in particular, the need to improve infrastructure and to stabilise the populations in the North and West and help them grow.  However, she wanted all Members to be ambitious and champion Highland, and she welcomed further input.

During discussion, Members raised the following issues:-

  • there had been a change in recent months in terms of communities’ awareness of and willingness to become involved in Council business and reference was made to a recent meeting with Community Council representatives and the positive engagement that had taken place in relation to local governance;
  • in relation to this item and the next, it was necessary to do things differently and reset the old expectations between the Council, communities, Community Councils, Community Partnerships etc.  In that regard, the importance of consultation, engagement, listening, empowerment, localism, trust, good communication and inclusivity was emphasised;
  • in the areas of the UK where successful transformation had taken place there had been a concerted effort by everybody involved to showcase the good things that happened there, and the need for the local media to promote Highland in a positive light was emphasised;
  • the Programme was not about party politics but achieving better outcomes for communities and showcasing Highland as the number one place in the UK to work, live and thrive;
  • trying to identify a definitive list of priorities was a mistake as the services provided by the Council were so varied and delivered over such a wide geographical area that inevitably priorities changed depending on a multitude of factors;
  • sustainability had to be a priority and that sometimes meant difficult decisions had to be made.  Sustainability came in many forms and reference was made to the unintended consequences of energy saving measures in terms of poor air circulation, damp and mould.  It was emphasised that it was necessary to take a holistic view, plan, consult, and base decisions on knowledge, experience, professional advice and the interests of constituents;
  • the Council was fortunate in that it had some of the foremost officials in the public sector in Scotland, as well as a fantastic legacy of knowledge and expertise from former officers;
  • whilst the Programme was admirable, concern was expressed as to how deliverable it was in a time of decreasing budgets;
  • given that officers were already struggling to deliver services, Members questioned who was going to monitor the key outcomes and targets;
  • communities were concerned with issues such as potholes, having sufficient teachers in schools, public toilets and good housing that was repaired on time and it would be difficult to engage with them in relation to the proposed Programme when other issues were not being addressed;
  • whilst the need for targets was recognised it was important not to become too fixated on them and to focus on need;
  • clarification was sought in relation to paragraph 7.1 of the report, which stated that the proposed seminar would be used to explore how the structure of the organisation, including political and governance structures both at strategic and area level, might need to change to support the delivery of performance measures;
  • it was understood that the purpose of the Programme was to set out the priorities of the Council.  This then fed into the Corporate Plan, which set out how performance would be measured, and the budget, which funded the stated priorities.  In addition, caution was expressed regarding increasing the number of pledges from 30, in the previous Programme, to 51.  The value of a commitment could only be judged if it was known how it was intended to achieve and monitor it, otherwise it was merely an aspiration.  It was therefore suggested that the Programme be treated as a draft, that it be refined following the proposed seminar, and that a slimmed down iteration be considered at the same time as the Corporate Plan;
  • concern was expressed that the Programme conflated service provision with wider aspirations in terms of the Council’s role in improving Highland communities;
  • affluent communities were enthusiastic about having a greater say in how the Council conducted its business.  However, less affluent communities were more concerned with service provision and it was suggested that providing services to the best standard possible needed to be at the forefront of the Programme.  Once that had been financed, consideration could be given to what could be done in addition;
  • Members wished to see more about the decentralisation of Council services;
  • reference was made to the significant number of people that commuted to Inverness from surrounding communities, thereby adding to the carbon footprint and traffic congestion, and it was suggested that it was necessary to encourage businesses to operate in smaller rural locations throughout Highland;
  • thanks were expressed to the Leader of the Council for listening to Members’ views, and the changes that had been made to the Programme were welcomed.  However, there was no reference to Brexit and the associated challenges and opportunities, and the need to create policy to maximise those opportunities was emphasised;
  • whilst Members welcomed the increase in the number of young people who wanted to stay in Highland, the figure was still only 46% and it was lower outwith Inverness.  The loss of young people from rural areas had to be targeted or it would escalate to the point that services would not be able to be sustained;
  • the Programme was inspirational and full of optimism but was very much aspirational.  Much of its delivery depended on local communities and the Council needed to work with community groups, remembering that they were volunteers, and be seen as an enabler rather than a barrier;
  • the need to better include Gaelic in the context of the document was emphasised;
  • if the Council was truly committed to localism it was necessary to empower communities financially and it was suggested that point 2 of the priorities in section 2 of the Programme should be strengthened accordingly;
  • the Programme had become very fluid and it was necessary to bring it to a conclusion so that the Council had a clear vision going forward;
  • it was necessary to distribute resources more evenly throughout Highland;
  • reference was made to a recent publication by the Scottish Ecological Design Association which highlighted that around 55% of homes in Highland were affected by fuel poverty, an issue that had not been mentioned in the Programme.  One of the main reasons for fuel poverty was the quality of house building, fuel bills often being three times what they ought to be to heat a modern home.  It was a key issue and it was suggested that it should be front and centre of the Programme;
  • since the 1970s, Highland had undergone transformational change and had benefitted from improved national and international transport links and digital connectivity.  It was perceived as being an area that offered a high quality of life, and had been listed in a 2018 Scottish Government report as being the best place to live in Scotland.  Tourism and service industries continued to be major economic drivers but that was not currently the case for the oil and gas industry.  While overreliance on oil and gas had undermined the economy since the 1990s, the affect had been mitigated by the rise of life sciences and renewables.  The unpredictability of non-traditional industries such as oil and gas, and the vulnerability of overreliance on multinationals were apparent.  Traditional industries offered repetitive tasks that could be automated or a large employer could relocate and, in a relatively small city surrounded by a large rural hinterland, this presented a high level of risk.  In a time of high unemployment where traditional skills could be outsourced or automated, creative skills remained highly sought after and valuable.  It was clear that the medium to long term goal of the Council should be to develop a creative workforce as a key contributor to innovation and research, locally, nationally and internationally, and to help employers create opportunities that were entrepreneurial, indigenous, high quality and, above all, sustainable.  This would attract high quality jobs to take advantage of the creative workforce that was likely to add real value to the prospects of the region.  To do so, it was necessary to build a society that was creative, diverse and tolerant as part of a wider strategic vision that was shared across political, economic, social, and cultural agents, every one of which was a stakeholder.  The essential task before Members was to unleash the energies, talent and potential of everyone to build a society that acknowledged and nurtured creativity, and to work together towards a creative economy in Highland;
  • the natural environment was arguably Highland’s biggest selling point and could not be underplayed.  It was already generating a significant number of jobs and the trend was in the right direction.  The tourist season was longer and was generating more and better paid jobs and it was necessary to do as much as possible to encourage that to continue.  In addition, the benefits to children of outdoor education/activities and taking managed risks were emphasised; and
  • the population in Caithness was predicted to drop by 14% over the next 20 years and reversing that trend would be a good measure of success.

In responding to the points raised, the Leader of the Council suggested that the recommendation in the report be modified and that Council note the draft Programme, which would be subject to further consideration.

In relation to whether it was necessary to include a statement about basic services, she suggested that that be considered at the proposed seminar.  However, she reminded Members that the Council Programme would inform Service Plans which would set out how services would be provided.  Monitoring and achievability also required further discussion.  In that regard, she emphasised the need for meaningful outcomes and measures.  In addition, she highlighted that Members would be monitoring the Programme and the Corporate Plan while officers would monitor Service Plans and report to the Chief Executive on a regular basis.

She went on to concur with the points raised in relation to Gaelic, localism, fuel poverty and the environment and highlighted that decentralising services and improving the amount of local spend had been included in the Programme.  She sought Members’ assistance in reducing the number of pledges and, in relation to poverty, emphasised that it was threaded throughout Highland and it was necessary to address it all.  Finally, she explained that the Chief Executive would be undertaking further work on the potential re-structuring of the Council and the matter would be discussed at the proposed seminar in January.


The Council:-

i.    NOTED the draft Council Programme which would be subject to further consideration;
ii.   NOTED the development of the Corporate Plan with key outcomes linked to robust target setting to be submitted to Council for Members’ approval in the New Year; and
iii.  AGREED that a two day all-Member seminar be held in January 2019.